“But I know if we actually catch what we’re hunting, it’s probably gonna rip our faces off.”
In Tana French’s crime novel, The Trespasser, Dublin Murder Squad detectives, Antoinette Conway and her partner Steve Moran investigate what initially seems to be a fairly standard “slam-dunk” domestic violence case involving a young, attractive blonde named Aislinn Murray who is found dead in her tiny home. She had a date that night with a bookshop owner named Rory Fallon, a man she’d met just a few weeks before. Fallon claims that he was invited to Aislinn’s home for the very first time for dinner but that Aislinn did not answer the door. There’s something off about Fallon’s statement, and with Conway and Moran pressured by a senior detective, the slick, popular Breslin and Superintendent O’Kelly, to wind this case up, it seems all too easy to arrest Fallon, but from the start, when Conway and Moran are handed the case at the end of their shift, there are some aspects of the murder that don’t quite feel right.
Aislinn, at first, looks like a “dead Barbie” to the hardened Conway. She fits the ideal of beauty, paper thin, blonde and dressed in designer clothes. Yet according to her best friend, Lucy, who argues that they weren’t that close, Aislinn had no real friends, had just recently started coming out of her shell, and may have been seeing a married man. There’s something strange about the whole case; Aislinn’s life seems like a cookie cutter version of the brainless blonde, yet as Conway digs deeper, she remembers where she saw Aislinn before, and back then, Aislinn was a completely different person…
Aislinn’s doing it again: getting blurrier with everything I find out about her.
The novel portrays Conway, who’s ostracized from the rest of the squad and Moran, her easy-going partner working on a “never-ending run of domestics,” wanting a case that will require some skill, and not the obvious solve cases they’ve been working lately. Part of the reason for this may reside in the building hostility towards Conway in the squad room. Conway is on the brink of making a career move when the Aislinn Murray case comes her way. Moran is much more interested in understanding the victim than Conway, and the reason for that resides in Conway’s steely shell .
The plot focuses on the hard grind of designating the minutiae of small tasks, the conversations between detectives of alternating theories, and several intense interviews of suspects. We see how when detectives build theories, there’s a line, a very fine line, between the possible and a fantasy:
All these stories. They hum like fist-sized hornets in the corners of the ceiling, circling idly, saving their strength. I want to pull out my gun and blow them away, neatly, one by one, vaporize them into swirls of black grit drifting downwards and gone.
The Trespasser illustrates how detectives can be seduced by a theory, the importance of understanding the victim, and how, in the absence of another suspect, circumstantial evidence can go a long way towards conviction.
Even when we have something, touching it crumbles it into nothing. More nothing, sifting down like fine dust, piling up in sticky drifts on the glossy desks, gumming up the swanky computers.
The Trespasser, although it could be designated as a police procedural, is a very interior novel–mostly focusing on Conway’s thought processes which are influenced, and prejudiced, by her background and the ostracism at work. This is the sixth entry in Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, and in this novel, we see the career of the hard-boiled Antoinette Conway, and the evolution of a murder detective. With the emphasis on the interior struggles of Conway and the grind of patient police work, The Trespasser may not appeal to readers who are looking for excitement, but due to the usual nature of the plot’s trajectory, it’s easy to see The Trespasser, a tale of revenge, manipulation and obsession, becoming a seminal crime novel for its study of methodology:
You don’t make the Murder Squad without having a world-class gift for finding creative ways to get under someone’s skin and wriggle around in there till they’d rip themselves open to get rid of you.
Here’s another review at Cleopatra Loves Books